Taking fantasy sports from year long to week (or even day), daily fantasy offers an extremely unqiue betting opportunity when compared to traditional sports wagering. Fantasy sports basically consist of "drafting" a team in hopes their combined statistics throughout the year out-pace the rivals. In daily fantasy sports, one bad draft is nullified the following week or day when a new draft is held!
Fantasy sports are an American institution, one that has been around for nearly 40 years at this point. The games and how they are played have evolved over the years, going from the days of league commissioners poring over box scores and calculating statistics by hand to today’s versions where websites and mobile apps give players score updates in real time. While such changes were monumentally important to the growth of fantasy sports, they simply capitalized on newly available resources to create a simpler and more accessible platform, with the games themselves remaining largely the same. Eventually, however, came daily fantasy sports, a concept that represented a seismic shift in the industry.
Daily fantasy games were first invented in the mid-2000s, but it wasn’t until 2015 that they really exploded into the national consciousness. Ads for the top daily fantasy companies were ubiquitous, with a television commercial touting the services running on average every 90 seconds at one point. While the industry has significantly settled down since those dizzying highs, daily fantasy games are still a pastime beloved by many and feature robust player pools and official partnerships with major sports leagues such as the PGA, MLB, and the NBA.
Daily fantasy takes the concept behind traditional fantasy sports and shrinks down the competition length. So instead of drafting one team at the start of a sports’ season and then competing week after week against other teams, daily fantasy games allow players to engage in contests that can take as little as a single day. These players simply follow a set of guidelines to compile a team of real-world athletes and pit them against other teams that were assembled in the same fashion, and at the end of the day one player and his team emerge victorious.
The appeal for these contests is fairly obvious to anyone that has participated in a traditional fantasy sports league before. In a season long game so many things can go wrong, like high-cost stars getting hurt or players underperforming, and a team’s season can be torpedoed just weeks after it began, leaving the owner to slog through the rest of their schedule despite having no chance at championship glory. With daily fantasy games such concerns are gone, as once a bad day or week of competition ends, players can start over fresh and try to avoid previous missteps.
Most daily fantasy games borrow much of their format from the traditional “auction” style fantasy contests. This means that entrants in a contest are all given the same salary cap to work with, and there are costs attached to the real-world athletes eligible to be added to a player’s team. Players must then fill out every one of their open roster spots with athletes without going over their assigned budget. Once rosters have been filled out, all of the teams in a given competition are put into a single pool. Once the real-world games begin, the daily fantasy teams earn points based on the performance of the athletes on the roster, and at the end of the competition’s time frame prizes are awarded based on how many points teams have accumulated.
As has already been mentioned, daily fantasy games take place in a much more compressed timeframe, with competitions concluding in days instead of months. This accelerated gameplay is the main appeal of fantasy sports for many, as it allows them ample opportunity to engage in fantasy sports and take home cash and prizes. Another big difference is in exactly how players approach each game type. Whereas in traditional fantasy sports players generally limit the number of teams they have in a given season to just a few, and always only have one team in a given league or competition, daily fantasy players commonly enter multiple teams in competitions every day, including often entering multiple different teams into a single contest.
Daily fantasy sports have always painted themselves as a fair and competitive endeavor, banking on that differentiation keeping them classified separately from other forms of gambling. Pre-existing exceptions for fantasy sports were used initially as an argument for daily fantasy’s legality, but questions over the legitimacy of that claim has led many states to create legislation that addresses the industry head-on in one way or another. As a result, in the many states where daily fantasy has been declared legal there are strict regulatory and security standards that must be met that ensure the safety of the games and player information.
In America, it all depends on where someone lives when it comes to determining if daily fantasy games are legal and regulated, but for the majority of people the answer is yes. At present, only nine states bar daily fantasy games from accepting their citizens as players, meaning that in the other 41 there is at least some form of legal and regulated daily fantasy play available to anyone that wishes to participate.
While baseball is the original fantasy sport, NFL is unquestionably the most popular fantasy game around these days, and has been for years. As such, football has always been at the forefront of the daily fantasy industry, with most of the industry’s top events and prizes given out for success in that sport. That being said, there is a tremendous variety of other sports that daily fantasy games are available for. Games exist for the rest of America’s Big Four leagues, the NBA, MLB, and NHL, but things don’t end there. Daily fantasy golf, soccer, and even eSports mainstay League of Legends can all be found at various daily fantasy sports. Finally, it is worth noting that one of the most popular of all daily fantasy sports in America is one of the most American pastimes around in NASCAR.
Players can also choose the style of contest they want to compete in. Most sites offer a wide variety of play types and entry costs. Some of the most common games are:
This game style is the one that will be most familiar to traditional fantasy sports participants. Like the majority of established fantasy games, these contests pit just two competitors against one another. The only real difference lies in the stakes, or more accurately the expediency of them. Traditional fantasy games see players competing in such one-on-one matchups against various opponents throughout the course of the season, with every result contributing to an overall record that is used to either crown a champion or determine playoff positioning for a (normally) single-elimination tournament to crown a champion. With head-to-head, one-day fantasy games, however, the only result that matters is the next one. Both players pay their entry fee, and the winner of that day’s contest takes it all (minus a small cut for the host site, of course). No cumulative records, no playoffs, and no more than one opponent.
In these types of games, users compete against two or more other players, with a specific prize pool and payout structure in place. Instead of going head-to-head, winners are determined by overall score compared to other league members. It is worth noting that across the myriad of daily fantasy options available, these types of games typically consist of smaller entry fields compared to most of the other game modes covered in this article.
These function similarly to leagues, with one very important difference: the payout. While leagues have a pay structure that awards varying denominations to those finishing in certain places, 50/50s - also known as double-ups - reward all that win an equal amount, which is double their entry fee. In order to win, players must simply finish in the top half of all entries. So if 20 players enter a 50/50 tournament with a $5 entry fee, the top 10 players will all walk away with $10, and the bottom 10 with nothing. There is no difference in the reward given for finishing first or finishing 10th in that scenario, which is why it is possible for these contests to pay out to half the field, as opposed to most other game styles where a much smaller percentage of players walk away winners. As a result of the lower barrier to profit, 50/50s are frequently among the most popular one-day fantasy games available.
These are a unique type of contest in that they offer users the opportunity to win big while retaining a small entry fee, as long as they are good enough. They do this by awarding entry keys to tournaments that players might otherwise be unable to afford to enter. While profiting off of these types of tournaments takes impressive skill across multiple competitions, those that truly excel at one-day fantasy sports can create massive profit with very little risk by stringing together a few wins and working their way up the ladder.
These are similar to 50/50 contests in that those that win can walk away with the same amount that is multiple times their entry fee, anywhere from 3x to 10x what it cost to enter the contest. However, where 50/50s reward half the field, multipliers pay out to far fewer competitors. This makes these types of contests far riskier, but also offers incredible value for those that triumph.
Freerolls (most popular in online poker) are contests that are free to enter and provide no cash winnings to the top performers, but do offer free entry to other games on the site. Much like qualifiers, these can be very lucrative to skilled players. The difference lies in the completely free nature of these events as opposed to qualifiers that require a small entry fee. These freerolls, as one would imagine, attract more competitors due to their risk-free nature.
These are the newest style of games on the daily fantasy scene, but ironically they are the ones most similar to the traditional fantasy games that have been played since 1980. Draft games take the traditional snake-style drafting structure of fantasy sports, where once a player has been selected he is removed from the pool of eligible players that other teams can choose from. Once all teams in the competition have drafted a full roster according to these criteria, they compete over a day or a week, with the best teams taking the prizes.
Having reviewed the many game options listed below, it is still wise to experiment with the different game types to find the one that gives you the best opportunity to succeed based on your skill level and play strategy. Some game types provide advantages such as higher chance of return or larger player pool while others provide the most risk vs reward. When deciding on which game type to enjoy, be sure to consider all that goes into each daily fantasy game.
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